The New England Patriots are off to a great start to reach the 7th Super Bowl of the Bill Belichick era. After winning the opening coin toss, the Patriots elected to receive in order to build up an early lead. New England holds a 17-9 lead heading into halftime.
The Patriots took the opening kickoff and marched 62 yards on 6 plays before a brutal Malcolm Mitchell drop on 3rd and 1 ended the drive. The Patriots settled for a field goal and a 3-0 lead.
The Steelers and Patriots exchanged three-and-outs as the Patriots stopped Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell, while also trying to establish the run on offense. Neither team had much success rushing the ball and the rest of the half was about airing out the football.
The Patriots pushed the tempo on their following drive and WR Chris Hogan was responsible for 53 yards and a touchdown after the Steelers forgot to cover him in the end zone and the Patriots grabbed a 10-0 lead.
The Steelers responded with a drive of their own, with Bell suffering an injury and RB DeAngelo Williams taking the field. The Patriots challenged the Steelers to dink-and-dunk down the field, and Pittsburgh was happy to comply. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger checked down to Williams or threw shallow crossers to WR Eli Rogers before Williams ran the ball in for a 5-yard touchdown. The Steelers missed the extra point and the Patriots held a 10-6 lead.
New England needed a great response drive and the offense kept pressing the tempo. The Steelers continued to leave Hogan wide open and the receiver collected a touchdown of a flea flicker and New England took a 17-6 lead.
Pittsburgh risked falling too far behind and they needed another strong drive down the field. The Steelers dink-and-dunked again until Roethlisberger found TE Jesse James for a 19-yard touchdown- but James was found to be down at the 1-yard line. The Patriots held strong with three consecutive stops, including a monster tackle for loss by DT Vincent Valentine, and forced the Steelers to kick a field goal to close the Patriots lead to 17-9.
Pittsburgh’s final two drives of the half lasted 13 plays over 6:16, and 15 plays over 6:04. The Patriots will need to improve on third down in the second half (allowed 5 conversions on 8 attempts) and they will need to work on removing the easy completions in the middle of the field since Roethlisberger has completed 16 of 22 attempts (72.7%). The Steelers have relied on #3 option WR Eli Rogers and #4 option TE Jesse James to move the ball, so CB Logan Ryan and SS Patrick Chung will need to step up in the second half.
The Patriots have been successful on offense when they throw the ball. Brady has completed 19 of 24 (79.2%) for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns (133.0 rating). Hogan has 117 yards and 2 scores, while WR Julian Edelman has added 59 yards on 3 receptions. The rushing attack has been nonexistent as Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount have 14 yards on 8 carries. The Patriots need their interior line to improve their blocking in the second half.
Since 2001, New England is 100-1 when they hold a halftime lead at home. The Steelers receive the ball in the second half.